What sank the 10-14 report;Letter

23rd February 1996 at 00:00
John Muir's piece on the "fresh start" in secondary school (TESS, January 26) was timely and appropriate. His comments, at a time when we are up to our waists in Higher Still, remind us that all is not yet rosy at the earlier stages of teaching and learning.

As a former member of the 10-14 committee, I sincerely appreciate Mr Muir's references to the report, particularly as it pointed up the practical implications of improving the transition between the sectors. He is right to say that the report was "ill-fated", but I am afraid he has repeated the old canard that cost implications contributed significantly to the rejection of much of what the report proposed.

Financial implications were, probably, highlighted by those whose decision led to the shelving of 10-14. These people were keen, in my opinion, to exploit the well-known scenario where even enthusiasts turn pale when the burden upon the taxpayer is mentioned. It was variously rumoured at the time that there were flaws in our approach to "knowledge", we were unclear on "modes", there was insufficient research. Where would the money came from? Why don't we start at five rather than 10?

At the final presentation of the report to the whole world at North Berwick, two things became very clear, apart from the fact that, auspiciously, the heating had broken down: 10-14 was about to be invited to commit seppuku and the mandarins hadn't really read it.

The reasons for what happened to the 10-14 report (despite the continuing patronising praise for some of its recommendation emanating from those who sank it in the first place) are found in the political context for the mid-1980s.

During the whole period of the 10-14 committee's work (1981-86), there was a patently determined campaign by national government to put local government and the trade unions in their place, following a blueprint laid down by Nicholas Ridley prior to the 1979 election.

One of the main planks of the 10-14 report was that an enhanced partnership between schools and their local authorities was essential if improvement was to be made. Such a proposal was anathema to the ideology of the Tories at that time. Indeed, there is no reason to imagine that this situation has changed; the difference over the years is that the Conservatives are now weaker in the country and their vulnerability could lie behind what seems to be genuine desire to consult and listen during the Higher Still process.

Crazy timetables not withstanding, we should be grateful that this consultation now means something. Can anyone believe that this would have taken place in the mid-1980s, when the Tories were fresh from the miners' wars and Labour was in self-flagellation?

If it was the financial factor that sank 10-14, why could they not have raised the relative peanuts from selling redundant military hardware to West Africa or the Arab emirates? Is that not what they always have done?

E MULLEN

Headteacher St Patrick's High School Coatbridge

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